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Why BBC’s documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ is not a usual case of artistic freedom

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By Ishan Kukerti

The ghost of 2012 Delhi Gang rape is here to haunt the nation again, making people cringe and boil with a sense of angst at the same time.

The government’s decision to put a restrain on the documentary is hardly a surprise but not totally unjustified. The state has played its part, and done that pretty fine. Although the case is pending in Supreme Court, out of the six accused, four are on a death row, one has committed suicide and one is in juvenile prison. For the government, the film is giving fuel to a fire and it has put it out the best way it could, within its capability.

The Justice Verma Report and the subsequent Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2013 are proof that the problem lies not with the state but the society. When a red faced Rajnath Singh says that the government is going to take action against BBC, then he is talking more as a member of a shamed society whose shortcomings are being rubbed into the face, than a statesman who is on a banning binge.

Freedom of speech, really?

This is not a usual case of freedom of speech or artistic freedom. Rape is a very sensitive issue and can’t be dealt like any other issue under the umbrella term, Freedom of Speech. The point is, will the film bring a change, serve a purpose?

There have been a lot of documentaries and films about the increasing rape culture in India along with other pressing issues relating to women in the past which have come and gone without occupying any substantial space in the media or people`s thought processes. None has resulted in the decline of rape cases or even the initiation of a dialogue at the ground level. Sex is still a taboo in India and what is required is a need to start a dialogue, free and meaningful.

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The Big Sister calls

The buzz created around India`s Daughter is majorly because it’s a BBC production and can be considered as a third person`s perspective. But has Leslee Udwin done justice to the subject of a universal social evil, by narrowing down her study on a specific yet in no way insignificant atrocity? Could her inquiry into the matter, as an international commentator been more holistic if she had taken a broader worldwide view, included the tussle between genders and an underlying primordial animal behavior in such cases, be it in Steubenville or France?  The documentary seems to be looking for a black cat in a room with lights turned off.  Or just saying that there is a black cat in the room.

According to a BBC survey, 230 women are raped in UK everyday and less than 1 in a 100 people gets convicted for the same. Yet Leslee Udwin`s decision to give voice to her sisters, so territorially and culturally removed from her seems weird, almost resembling a white burden of some sort. Maybe the brutality of the rape had attracted her imagination, which is well explored in the film. But isn’t this falling into the downward spiral of sensationalism in Journalism? Choosing an event more shocking than others ( yet in no way the most shocking, she could have found even more pathetic realities here or elsewhere) based on its content quality?

 

Solution, precipitate or nothing at all?   

But the BBC television director Danny Cohen has said that the film, ‘ Has a strong public interest of crating awareness about a global problem.’ and the inductive logic of the documentary gives some strong causes to rape as a phenomenon, like changing economy, patriarchy and social deprivation, but the solutions it brings to the discussion are quite generic and not unprecedented ‘ should bes’

like education and changing people`s mindset. More than a critical inquiry into an ignominious social evil, the film is a multi-narrative of the blood curding incident on December 16, 2012, which certainly makes the head hang but doesn’t bring anything concrete to the table. Shame has never deterred a criminal from a crime nor has repetition changed perceptions. The interview with one of the main accused in the case is proof enough how difficult it is to change someone`s view point. However the film has undoubtedly reinforced viewer`s opinion by giving it an authoritative BBC kind of voice.

Postscript

Will the Indian society or the world at large learn anything from the heart rendering reality of Nirbhaya? Will it make those who need to introspect, wait for a moment in their lives and think again?

The documentary is a definite reminder, a shocker, that the world has yet not forgotten about Nirbahya, even though most people have moved on to other issues, to different pandals at Jantar Mantar. In the end the relevance of the film can only be established on the basis of weather it incites frustration or leads to a constructive dialogue in the society.

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  • The documentary raises some very relevant questions undoubtedly, however, it probably failed to delve deeper about the malice called rape and sought to play to certain stereotypes( uneducated and poor men rape etc). If this documentary can raise awareness and expedite punishment of the rapists in question, its somewhat achieved what it set out to do.

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  • The documentary raises some very relevant questions undoubtedly, however, it probably failed to delve deeper about the malice called rape and sought to play to certain stereotypes( uneducated and poor men rape etc). If this documentary can raise awareness and expedite punishment of the rapists in question, its somewhat achieved what it set out to do.

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India Gets A Win, Supreme Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

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Homosexuality, India, marriage
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

 In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”.

In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional.

The bench said it is no longer an offence for LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community to engage in consensual sex between two adults in private.

Reading out the judgment, Chief Justice Misra said attitudes and mentality have to change to accept others’ identity and accept what they are, and not what they should be.

Homosexuality, India
LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow.
Pixabay

“It is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail,” said the court.

The verdict sparked celebrations in the LGBTIQ community across India even as the judgment was being read out. Many of the community members who had assembled outside the apex court jumped in joy and distributed sweets.

Chief Justice Misra said consensual sex between adults in a private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice.

Section 377 will not apply to consensual same-sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians, the court said, clarifying that sexual act without consent and bestiality will continue to be an offence under section 377.

“An individual has full liberty over his or her body and his or her sexual orientation is a matter of one’s choice,” said the Chief Justice.

“Time to bid adieu to prejudicial perceptions deeply ingrained in social mindset. Time to empower LGBTIQ community against discrimination. They should be allowed to make their choices,” he added.

Homosexuality, India
In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional. Pixabay

 

In a concurring judgement, Justice Nariman said homosexuality is “not a mental disorder or disease”.

He said the LGBTIQ community has an equal right to live with dignity and are entitled to equal protection of law. He directed the Centre to give wide publicity to this judgment to remove the stigma attached to homosexuality.

Justice Chandrachud said to deny the LGBTIQ community their right to sexual orientation is a denial of their citizenship and a violation of their privacy.

“They cannot be pushed into obscurity by an oppressive colonial legislation… Sexual minorities in India have lived in fear, hiding as second class citizens,” said Justice Chandrachud, adding “the state has no business to intrude on such matters”.

Justice Indu Malhotra said that history owes an apology to the LGBTIQ community for all that they have suffered on account of the ignorance of the majority about homosexuality.

“LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow,” she said.

Homosexuality, India
People Participated in Hundreds for the Gay Pride Parade Held In Delhi.

The Supreme Court verdict, which overruled its own earlier judgment, assumes significance as in the earlier round of litigation in 2013, the top court had reversed a Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality.

The Delhi High Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice A.P. Shah, had in July 2009 legalised homosexual acts between consenting adults by overturning the 149-year-old law — finding it unconstitutional and a hurdle in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya in the Suresh Kumar Koushal and another vs Naz Foundation and others case, had set aside the high court’s judgment and said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

The matter was subsequently resurrected in July 2016, when a fresh petition was filed by members of the LGBTIQ community — dancer N.S. Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur — which was then marked to the Constitution Bench by a Division Bench.

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Gaydo, India’s first LGBTQ Radio Show

Also Read: Gaydio: India’s First LGBTQ Radio Show Will Help People Understand Gender and Sexuality in a Better Manner

The reference was made on the basis of submission that it was the first time that individuals directly affected by the provision were approaching the court.

Among the petitioners are a batch of current and former students of Indian Institutes of Technology. Claiming to represent more than 350 LGBTIQ alumni, students, staff and faculty from the IITs, the petitioners said that the existence of Section 377 had caused them “mental trauma and illnesses, such as clinical depression and anxiety and relegated some of them to second-class citizenship”. (IANS)